By Mary Ellen Bianco
The next time you take your car to the mechanic, make sure you’re asking the right questions. Keith Tennill, owner of ProBilt Automotive, has a few suggestions on what to ask to save you time and money.
1. What’s your priority as a mechanic?
The most important thing to customers is timeliness — it’s always the first question they ask. People want good service and to have it completed right the first time.
2. Will I be charged for estimates on repairs?
If machines and mechanics are used for diagnostics, you’re going to be charged. It could take 30 minutes or sometimes two to three hours to figure out what’s wrong. If you call to ask a general question, such as the cost of replacing a water pump, you could probably get a free estimate.
3. What happens when there’s more to fix than I expected?
Customers need time to think about their budgets. If there is a laundry list of repairs, ask your mechanic to prioritize by safety items to help you decide. However, putting some things off may cost more in the long run. Ask for a detailed invoice before, during or after the repairs.
4. What do I look for in a good auto shop?
Look for a shop that has certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). It sets them apart from other places. The technicians, whether entry-level apprentices or experienced mechanics, attend six training classes per year. This keeps everyone fresh since things are always changing. The quality of the mechanics is better than the quantity of staff. Approval by the American Automobile Association (AAA) is another standard to look for, since shops have to go through a detailed process to be recommended by them.
5. What is the best way to find an auto mechanic, especially if I’m new in town?
Look at online reviews on sites such as Yelp, Yellow pages, and Google. Another site is Car Talk Mechanics Files, where customers have posted reviews of more than 75,000 mechanics around the United States. We always ask customers how they found our business, and the majority of them say they read online reviews.
6. Should I have my car checked on a regular basis?
Yes. People just put gas in their cars and go these days. You need to get into a repair shop regularly. If you have the oil changed consistently, for example, there will be someone under the hood looking for any issues. Your mechanic should do a 21-point inspection, which can prevent a lot of problems in the future.
7. What options are there for choosing car parts for a repair?
For the most part, it’s based on cost in this industry. The ASE certification is categorized by major or minor auto repair services on foreign or domestic vehicles. Parts are referred to in three ways: Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM); aftermarket parts sold after the sale of the automobile by the OEM to the consumer; or used parts. There are pros and cons to each option.
8. Are the parts and services under warranty?
Warranties are better with aftermarket parts. If the shop is a retailer with The National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA), qualifying repairs and services are covered for 24 months/24,000 miles. The warranty is honored at more than 14,000 locations around the country. Usually there is a one-year warranty on dealership parts and a 30-day warranty on used parts.
9. Do you provide transportation while my car is being repaired?
Some repair shops offer a shuttle service or a discount through a rental car company.
10. Should I use regular or synthetic oil?
I recommend synthetic oil, which doesn’t have to be changed as often. Time is important to people, and they travel a lot more. Consult your owner’s manual or maintenance schedule to see how often to change the oil in your vehicle and what type of oil to use.
Probilt AutomotiveNational Institute for Automotive Service Excellence
*Another site is Car Talk Mechanics Files, where customers have posted reviews of more than 75,000 mechanics around the United States.